Friday, December 30, 2011

Grades for Non-Storm of Late December

If you run into one of our fine local meteorologists, give 'em some love. They're probably feeling as down as anyone about our utterly uneventful winter weather, and now the majority of them have to live with knowing they predicted accumulating snow for the Twin Cities that essentially never materialized. And commuters, warned that they'd likely need extra time because of weather delays, potentially lost a little shut eye based on the forecasts. This was, by most assessments, a bust-o-rama.

Our ever-subjective grades for the non-storm of late December are as follows:

WCCO: B WCCO was the least gung ho on accumulating snow for last night and this morning. While WCCO viewers weren't lead to believe there'd be much snow, they were also lead to believe there'd be at least a little.

KSTP: D Forecast of 1-2 inches of snow meant they were 1-2 inches off. They were also slow to remove any chance of accumulating snow from the forecast, providing for at least the possibility of some as recently as mid-morning.

FOX: D- Steve Frazier's unabashed love of the "snow meter" not withstanding, FOX seemed to predict 1.5 to 2.5 inches of snow.

KARE: D- KARE predicted 1 to 3 inches, with 3 inches being the exception. In fact, 1-, 2- and 3-inches were all the exceptions.

Strib and NWS: F Predicted 1-3 inches. Need we say more.

MPR: B- MPR was on the right track with this storm, predicting a coating to an inch for the urban core. But there was no coating to be seen, at least if you lived in the shadow of MSP airport, the official measuring station. If these were awards, we might give MPR an honorable mention.

@NovakWeather: F With the most ambitious snow forecast, TMF's advising meteorologist was off on this one. But we're pleased to hear he's already dusting himself off and read to battle for another day. Keep the faith, Tom.

The Weather Channel: C- Comparatively speaking, TWC fared somewhat better than the local weather gurus, but they still predicted around one inch of white stuff that never came. 

Accuweather: F Inaccuweather. Need we say more?

Agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts on our grades in the comments section below.

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  1. Couldn't agree more Bill.

    This one hurt but it is all about learning from mistakes. If I were to do it all over again, I would've altered my forecast when the 18z model runs came up dry. I think it is fair to say that the prediction for snow was right on given the 12z runs, but most everyone neglected to dramatically alter their forecasts after as the 18z runs unfolded.

    I give kudos to all of those individuals who stuck with a nearly dry forecast for today. That took a lot of guts, especially when viewing the Upper Midwest radar echoes over the last 24 hours.

    Now, onto the next storm which arrives tomorrow. It is coming ashore as we speak.

  2. In education, we have a motto that if more than 1/3 of students give a wrong answer to a question, it's a bad question, not a bad answer. With that mindset, if all our meteorologists got a forecast wrong, we should chalk it up to a bad forecast model.

    I think everyone gets to use a mulligan on this one; however, there's also the saying, "don't predict rain (precip) during a drought." The experts soaked up the 1-5 inch ranges the models put out and ran with them. We're in a drought and storms have been skipping around us for months. Any snow forecast should be given with a disclaimer until the pattern clearly changes. It's right to warn us if there's a chance for snow and icy roads, but not at the expense of reality and past precedent.

  3. @AB I'm intrigued by your education analogy. However, the skill in forecasting is in being able to determine which models to embrace, and when. I'd suggest that this was simply a very challenging question that much of the class missed (WCCO essentially got it right). Otherwise, we may as well just grade forecast models, or better yet, the people who create such models.

  4. I agree that weather forecasting is certainly not like school, in that meteorologists (I hope) have already proven a mastery of the material, but even a poorly worded question can be answered correctly by some kids, given enough time, experience, and thought.

    I would hope that with enough time and research, a meteorologist could decipher all the information and provide an accurate forecast, but it's going to be far more difficult to do when the models don't cooperate. In our 24/7 news cycle, and especially with this storm, I don't know that they had the time needed. Two runs from the same model - six hours apart - completely contradicted each other right as the storm was moving in.

    Let's face it, this isn't last winter when if Mother Nature blinked, 2-4 inches of snow appeared and a "bust" was predicting 8 inches and winding up with 15 (or vice versa). Easy test questions last year. ;)

  5. I bet dollars to doughnuts if Dave Dahl was on Channel 5 last night he would have been talking more like 3-5", rather than the 1-3" that Kenny estimated... He is always on the high end!

  6. I left the metro area Thursday,early afternoon for Austin,MN for a family event, confident that by Friday morning 2-4" would fall with accumulations around 1-3" for SE MN. I was w/o internet access during this time. Thursday evening peeps were asking me if snow would fall and how the roads would be friday morning, as the family would gather once again. I said 1-3" of snow no problem around here, we are used to it. Of course I didn't have 18z access. When we got back to my parents house on thurs evening and watched the weather report on tv with the radar...I said OH Sh--!!! Storm track has moved way south, this is a freezing rain event. When I got up this morning @ 6am and saw a 10th of a inch of freezing rain coating by my truck another Oh Sh-- came out of my mouth as it was still raining. But by about 7am the rain quit freezing....SE MN just missed a major freezing rain was close!!!

    There was still some frozen rain on tree branches at 230 pm Friday afternoon.

  7. Well, here we go again with the weekend system, and the NAM showing an aggressive look. The 4km Hi Res shows a potential heavy band of precip just west of the metro area. The the NAM overdoing it again, or is it on the right track. Well, I'm a little torn here. It showed something similar to this look before, and with the system being seen by the model data network, I guess it is possible that this could happen. If this system has a tap into some moisture from the Gulf, it makes total sense for this precip to blossom like the NAM is showing. The low is deepening fairly rapidly as it passes by, which also works in our favor for snow forming. It still will probably start out as a little rain, but change over to snow pretty rapidly. We'll wait and see what the other models show...

  8. I can't help but think back to the NYE storm of 2006. That was also a brown Christmas/New Years. Like this weekend, that storm was expected to start out as rain with temps in the 30s-near 40 and eventually switch over to snow overnight, dropping an inch or two of slush.

    Well, 20 miles west of "the loop," that changeover happened before noon instead of after dark, and while the airport did indeed end up with only a little slush, we had 10 heavy, wet inches of snow to shovel and plow the next day. It would be wishful thinking to expect that scenario to duplicate itself, but Duane's post sure is intriguing!!!

  9. Hey it's so boring lets all list our top five weather events of are mine posted in the comment section of Paul Huttner's blog on Dec 22nd...I would like to see other opinions

    "My top five weather events for 2011. First let me explain how I judge them. #1 was it a record event, #2 how many people did it affect and did it change a large number of people's daily routine, #3 economic impact on the state's economy.

    #1 Hands down I agree with you, the winter of 2010/2011 (after all you can't include that in 2010, most of it didn't happen yet lol)

    # 2 Record dew points set in Mn on July 19 at Morehead MN 88°, and a record in Minneapolis of 82°
    ( impacts felt almost state wide)

    #3 Drought....Driest autumn on record. ( again impacts felt almost state wide)

    #4 Record Feb single snowfall total for Mpls of 13.8" (many areas had more)

    #5 Minneapolis Tornado. (while catastrophic and painful for those in it's path, it was very much a local event.But I can understand those that have it number 1)

    I always try and reserve the honorable mention to a weather story that wasn't. In 2010 it was the lack of tornadoes in the metro in spite of a record shattering year state wide.

    So this years honorable mention goes to the flood that wasn't. After one of the snowiest years on record and despite the doom and gloom of local forecasters, mother nature decided to cooperate with a slow spring time melt....(I know...tell that to the folks south of here, their pain was immense)"

    For Western WI hands down the #1 event is the tornado out break of April 10th

  10. I agree with most of your top 5's, but I'd put the dew points under a broader umbrella of major heat waves. After all, we did have a rare high of, I believe, 103 in early June. The dew points were the only reason it didn't get that hot again during the July heat wave.

    I'd also put the two 2010/2011 winter events together and include the snow flurries that fell on May 2nd (CRAZY!).

    In place of the second Winter 2010/2011 headline I would have the lack of snow this Nov/Dec and the first brown Christmas in 5 years. While one could argue that it goes hand-in-hand with the drought, we have had several rain events over the past few weeks that, even in the driest of years, would usually fall as snow.

  11. *On second thought, I think I'd remove one of those five and add the BWCA fire. Started by lightning and spread by wind, it also led to many hazy days as far south as Chicago and northern Indiana.

  12. Just in case anyone wanted a visual reference as to what I was talking about, here it is. One is the HiRes NAM "future radar", and the other is the precip type. Please note that the precip type doesn't show the intensity of the rain/sleet/snow. Looks like it has the low pass right over the La Crosse area, which is a good track if the change over can happen soon enough.

    Precip type:

    Future radar:

    I highly doubt that 10 inches of snow will fall from this, at least anywhere close to home, but that sure would be something. Taking a peak at the NAM data on Bufkit, it totals between 2.5 and 3 inches of snow for MSP. While overall totals shouldn't bee too high, I do wonder if the weather service will issue a Winter Weather Advisory for areas due to potentially a quick burst of snow, potential for reduced visibilities because of the increasing wind, and the fact that it is New Years Eve, and plenty may be on the road. Overnight and tomorrow's 12z runs will need to be watched closely for any drastic changes, much like our failed system yesterday.

  13. AB, I always judge the winter season as a whole in the next years weather events, unless there is a record breaking snowfall, or record cold in the current year. sorry the record low snowfall and brown Xmas will go hand in hand into 2012, but I am kind of worried about the severe season next spring. So far the record low precip, rain or snow to Jan 1st I have to include into the drought, I hope that makes sense

  14. ok guys wish me dec snowfall guess on the star trib site was 8.2 we have 5.6...I need 2.6 by midnight on the 31st looks like it could be close...if at midnight we have 8.1 for the month I loose I can't go over.....LOL

  15. wow Duane except for a three hour timing diff the GFS seems to agree



    Why in the H are we getting excited about a 3" snow fall LOL

  18. GEM and European models starting to increase QPF amounts for tomorrow night. It does look like there could be enough to warrant an advisory...should be interesting to see what the 12z model runs show.

  19. OK, show of hands! How many here are on their knees, praying for a big snowfall on what is already one of the most dangerous driving nights? How many would like to ring in the new year with a bit of slip-sliding fun we had last New Year's Eve?

  20. @randyinchamplin,because we are sick and tired at looking at the brown crap out our windows,I for one would love to see 3 inches,oh sorry 2.6 before midnight,and then like the Halloween blizzard of 1991 another 17 inches after midnight to ring in the new year(I know it wont happen but we could all dream big cant we?)maybe mother natures' resolution this year is to bring a bunch of snow to the snow lovers of MSP.

  21. @Anonymous at 12:52am,watch the weather and stay off the roads if they are bad and you want to be safe,we all take a risk leaving our houses daily,accidents can occur anytime,any place,I get that accidents rise in inclement weather,thats why you stay abreast to the forecasts/radar/nowcast and make a decision if you will venture outdoors with the drunken idiots and possible new snowfall on the ground,have a plan B,have a cocktail with the wife and watch the ball drop on TV,thats what I'll be doing,and watching the radar for that high QPF from Duane.

  22. @big daddy...I think Randy was implying that he couldn't believe that, at the end of December, we would be looking forward to a 3 inch snowfall potential...meaning that we should have already seen several of these types of systems and it would be just another average day. I hope that makes sense. Now...a couple other things. The 06z NAM is coming in, and it doesn't appear to be changing things all that much, other than perhaps showing a tad bit more QPF. Another model that somewhat has my attention is the RPM model (sorry, this one isn't available to the public) It is showing a pretty nice area of snow blossoming near or west of the metro, and moving through. In fact, it actually has a band of perhaps 4-6 inches of snow north of the metro, up in the Hinkley/Duluth area...metro area it has 2-4. It also has the lake effect snow machine in full swing, with these cold winds blowing over the warm waters. The UP of Michigan will be likely be digging out from easily 12+ inches of snow (great snowmobiling up there, by the way). I'm still very curious to see if the models are overdoing things or not. The wake of this system still looking very windy. Don't be shocked to see several reports of gusts over 50mph in the open wind prone areas on Sunday. Oh, and in case anyone was wondering, 00z GFS data in Bufkit showing around 2 inches of snow for MSP.

  23. Well, honestly this is a little unexpected. I figured the advisories could be issued due to the travel period and potential for reduced visibilities...but now the NWS is apparently issuing Winter Storm Warnings for certain areas. It has to be for the reduced visibilities, but I'm not exactly sure why they didn't just go with advisory across the whole area. I guess they are really trying to get the point across for those on the road. Anywho...stay tuned to this one.

  24. @Duane oh I totally got what Randy was saying,sorry if I sounded like a smartass,I knew he was just being sacrastic about our lame winter and lack of snow and were getting excited over 3 inches,I would take any snow at this point.
    .....Talking of snow,believe it or not WINTER STORM WARNINGS ARE NOW IN PLACE AND YES IT INCLUDES THE METRO.Everyone should look at the NWS discussion page its a very good read and explains alot on their thinking and what they see happening today,at the highest end they have 5 inches(so Randy that may not bow so well for your trib prediction),but as noted by Duane QPF'S are rising(AB your memory of 2006 may hold true here as well)in the NWS discussion they state if changeover happens quicker and the band stalls higher amounts could be realized,in any event Novak I hope you dusted yourself off very quickly,your chance to redeem yourself is right in front of you(weather is funny business you can go from goat to hero in 48hrs)and Novak props for recongzing the potential of this storm several days ago when most everyone only cared about the warmth,you saw thru that and said somewhere near will have to deal with pretty bad conditions,well as of now that spot is eastern minnesota which includes the metro,everyone be safe if your out and about tonight. Bill looks like you need to turn around and start a new post,who would have thunk it in our boring winter you would have 3 posts in a matter of 3 days.

  25. Holy crap! winter storm warnings,in the winter were having,pinch me cant be true

  26. To the regulars and Bill as well,let me ask you your opinions,went to check accuweather and on their take for our potential storm tonight,both have an inch at most for our total,both also have the NWS statement/alert on the winter storm warning,obviously depicting a whole different picture,isnt it confusing the public with two different outcomes on the same page?it just contradicts one another,thoughts?

  27. Wow - what the heck?
    Woke up to the weather channel with a Wind Advisory (which I knew about from last night) and a Winter Storm Warning. Although the weather channel is not on board as they are predicting 1" - just funny to see 1" and warning used in the same forecast.
    This gives highway departments and tow truck operators plenty of heads up about later today. The public is not likely to change many plans over 2-4" of snow (think of people that have pre-paid for the evening).

    A couple of thoughts - (1) I know "Blowing Snow Advisory" is no longer a NWS product, but if it still existed, this seems like the type of event in which it would have been used. (2) If this were last winter and the same forecast, I'm wondering if a Winter Storm Warning would have been issued?
    But I totally understand the warning given the timing of this event and lack of events thus far this winter. Let's just hope it pans out.

    Lastly - randyinchamplin, good "jinx" by calling the weather boring. I like your top 5 list. I would like to add a subset to your #1. The highest temp in Jan 2011 at MSP was only 32 (for a couple of hours on the 29th). That is very rare to not go above the freezing mark for the whole month.

  28. What a surprise this morning... I think going with a Winter Storm Warning is a bit overdone, and I'm already seeing panic from friends as a result. Would like to see Winter Weather and Freezing Rain Advisories used in place. Just my two rusty cents.


  29. Big Daddy: I appreciate the props and it feels good to see this storm coming together like this.

    I always believed that something significant was going to develop over Minnesota along the leading edge of this Arctic outbreak I just wasn't sure exactly where. For me, the upper level features were simply to good to ignore. 250mb Jet had a nice buckle over the Upper Midwest and the 500mb vort max was strengthening and moving just south of MN. Best of all, we finally have some true Arctic air to work with. The only problem was no concrete surface low tracking south of us.

    Low and behold, the models finally latched onto that surface low in the 12z runs. Now, we have everything coming together and a deepening surface low that tracks from DSM to Green Bay. The PERFECT track for a Winter Storm over southern/eastern MN.

    I'm very concerned that travelers will not take warning to what may happen this evening and overnight. With temperatures well above freezing this AM & early PM, it is easy to let your guard down and not believe what is forecasted. Plus, people are going to go out and party no matter what. Simply put, this is bad timing and the public might have less confidence in the weather forecasts, especially after yesterday's debacle.

    I expect a band of heavy snow to develop around 6pm or so over southern MN. This band will quickly extend northeast and intensify during the evening. As winds kick around to the north, travel conditions will become dangerous by midnight. The accumulating snow will likely be finished by sunrise, but if we get a good 6 to 9 hours of moderate/heavy snow, it will not be a surprise if someone close to the MSP metro has to dig out from 6"+ of snow. Combine this with strong winds overnight and tomorrow and you have a serious problem on hand.

    I will go with a solid 4"-7" band of snow across the metro. Optimistic, but why the hell not? I love snow.

  30. Wow. This was a surprise to wake up to!

    First off, it's not lost on me that was one of the few entities to call for little to no snow on Thursday night and they're still calling for an inch or less tonight. Warning or not, I will certainly take this storm with a grain of salt (or a plow truck full of it).

    Second, a WSW is issued when there is the potential for 6+ inches of snow OR winds are below blizzard criteria but bad enough to lead to whiteout conditions (clearly this is the criteria they're using for tonight's storm). In the immediate metro, with all the buildings and such, these conditions likely won't occur. However, there is life outside the loop! Even Hennepin county has some open rural areas along its far western border, and if you go out to the next ring (Carver, Wright, Scott, etc) whiteout conditions are likely should the snow materialize.

    Should the snow not materialize, well, then the NWS will have egg on their face, but better to have regret over being too cautious than regret over not being cautious enough.

  31. Just set up a new post for revised Saturday evening forecast.

    Two thoughts:
    1) Big Daddy, yes it's odd for outlets like to show less than an inch while showing NWS forecast for considerably more. I guess that must have to do with a legal require or feeling that they need to share the official government-issued forecast.

    2) Based on collective forecasts surprising they've issued a Winter Storm Warning. If part of that is based on the context of it being New Years Eve, that still seems odd. I thought from an earlier discussion last month that criteria are fairly hard and fast (and vary by location in the country). Anyway, this will be an interesting event from a forecaster analysis perspective.

  32. @Bill, I'll reply to your #2 in the new thread.

  33. Just my personal thinking as well. If this wasn't New Years Eve, or any other busy travel evening, I think the NWS would have simply gone with widespread advisories. I just think they are really trying to hammer home to anyone thinking of driving tonight to really take it easy out there. People will still be stupid on the roads and crash, but in the NWS's mind, they did all they could do to warn people of today. I will say though, that I think this may be one of the first times I've seen a Winter Storm Warning issued without a watch issued. I have seen upgrades from advisories to warnings, but not a warning right out of the gates. Very interesting indeed. I also echo the props to Novak. Models took a while to really see it, but eventually they came around. Safe travels everyone!

  34. @Duane, the lack of watch/advisory preceding it is a testament to this winter in general. Although Novak saw potential for this storm days ago, the models only picked up on it in the past 24 hours.

  35. @AB I couldn't agree more...and this wasn't meant to be a slam on the NWS by any means, but more an observation. It would figure though, that we don't see anything what so ever through pretty much the whole first part of winter, just to get something on a busy travel evening.

  36. It has snowed in the wintertime for many years here in Minnesota. Since when is three inches of snow, or lack thereof, news anyway?